Oct 29

Moredun’s animation series

Building on the success of their ‘War of the Worms’ animation, BAVP colleagues at the Moredun Research Institute have produced a series of educational animations on:

Anthelmintic resistance (War of the Worms)

Liver fluke (Fight the Fluke)

Biosecurity (Battle of the Bugs)

Sheep scab (Stop the Spread)


Fight the Fluke animated video

Oct 22

Best practice equine endoparasite control

Following the discontinuation in the UK of the only single active praziquantel product for equine tapeworm treatment, BAVP member Prof. Jacqui Matthews from the Moredun Research Institute has teamed up with Westgate Labs and Equisal to produce a guide on best practice for strategic equine endoparasite control.

See Equisal’s press release for more details.

The guide includes reccommended treatment choices based on positive worm egg count and/or tapeworm tests at different times of the year, and a table showing the current anthelmintic resistance status of equine endoparasites.

Prof. Matthews commented in the press release: “I think it’s an issue to limit prescribers’ options for worm species-targeted treatments. Wormer resistance is a growing problem and has the potential to become a major horse welfare threat. Losing the option of a praziquantel-only product means that any treatment option for tapeworm infection will now also impact redworms, whether required or not. Frequent drug exposure speeds the development of resistance and, over time, has potential to significantly decrease the effectiveness of the few chemicals that we have to treat life-threatening worm burdens in horses. To guard against this, we must become more strategic with parasite control. This means seeking tailor-made solutions for control based on knowledge of management, infection risk, drug sensitivity and, importantly, robust diagnostic tests.”



Oct 17

SCOPS: Latest liver fluke warning urges sheep and cattle farmers to ‘keep on your guard’

From: scops.org.uk

The Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) and Control of Cattle Parasites Sustainably (COWS) groups are urging sheep and cattle farmers not to take their eyes off the ball when it comes to the liver fluke threat risk this autumn.

While liver fluke burdens on pasture are expected to be much lower than last season, experts are warning it is dangerous to assume that applies to all farms, all areas on a farm, or that levels will remain low as the autumn progresses.

Speaking on behalf of SCOPS, sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings says: “So far, reports from around the UK support this advice. Experts are warning that farmers must keep on their guard and are predicting that, due to changes in weather patterns, acute liver fluke cases may occur later than normal.”

Advice from SCOPS and COWS:-

  • Don’t get caught out by treating too early. Monitor to determine the need and timing of treatments (see list of tools below).
  • In lower risk situations, consider treating sheep with closantel or nitroxynil rather than triclabendazole.
  • Worms (including haemonchus, which can produce signs similar to liver fluke disease) may be the problem, particularly in lambs. Keep in mind that haemonchus is also a risk for ewes.
  • Investigate losses. A post mortem is still the best way to establish whether liver fluke is present.
  • Monitor abattoir returns carefully for evidence of liver fluke.

Diana Williams, Liverpool University and a member of COWS, says: “Snail numbers on farms were high at the beginning of the season. While the hot dry weather caused numbers to drop during July and August in most locations, this was not the case everywhere, with high numbers of snails observed in some persistently wet habitats. This means that although overall numbers of snails are likely to be lower, specific areas of pasture may still present a high risk of fluke.”

John Graham-Brown of NADIS agrees: “The NADIS forecast anticipated that the hot dry weather over the summer months would have reduced snail activity, with lower infection levels of fluke on pasture as a result. Our predictions suggest the peak fluke season may be later and shorter this year.”

On many farms where animals would normally be routinely treated, testing not only aids the timing and choice of treatments but also helps to avoid unnecessary treatments of animals. SCOPS and COWS encourage producers to consider the range of tools available to them:-

  • Faecal egg count (FEC) testing. To indicate if adult fluke are present in the animal.
  • Coproantigen testing. Thought to detect the presence of fluke a little earlier (2-3 weeks in sheep) than a fluke FEC test.
  • Blood (ELISA) testing. Detects antibodies produced when sheep and cattle are exposed to infections. These tests are most useful in animals in their first grazing season to indicate exposure to infection, but could be useful this year on farms where no exposure to fluke has been assumed because of the dry weather.
  • Bulk-tank milk (ELISA) testing. To detect exposure to infection in dairy herds.
  • Post mortems on dead animals.
  • Abattoir returns on livers. A very useful source of information for both cattle and sheep.

Updates from around the UK

  • Heather Stevenson, SRUC Veterinary Services, based in Dumfriesshire: “We are seeing some fluke eggs in a small number of samples from lambs, which are probably from infections picked up in late spring/early summer. However, we are seeing some massive worm (roundworm, not fluke) burdens in lambs and, because the symptoms can be similar to liver fluke with some worm species, farmers must get a diagnosis. If farmers treated for fluke in September as a routine without testing and don’t do anything else until January, they could easily be caught out.”
  • Philip Skuce, Moredun, on monitoring work in Argyll: “To gauge current fluke infection levels, we are faecal sampling sheep in Argyll, a notorious hotspot for fluke due to its mild, wet climate, and this should act as a good early warning system for other parts of the UK. So far, we have seen low fluke egg counts (both liver fluke and rumen fluke), indicative of a low level chronic (adult) fluke infection –but this may change and we need to keep up the surveillance.”
  • Sian Mitchell, APHA, based in Cardiff: “We have not diagnosed any cases of acute fluke in England and Wales as yet. But we are detecting fluke eggs in faeces or liver damage due to fluke on post mortem examination, suggesting chronic fluke infections. We are also seeing severe roundworm infections in lambs, reinforcing the need to get a diagnosis as to cause of diarrhoea or death.”
  • Ben Strugnell, Farm Post Mortems Ltd, County Durham: “I have not seen any acute cases of liver fluke yet, only live adult flukes (as a subclinical disease) in suckler cows. These could have been a source of fluke eggs throughout the season and as such a ‘safe haven’ for the parasite during the very dry conditions.”
  • Rebecca Mearns, Biobest: “We carry out the coproantigen test for liver fluke in our lab and, so far, there have not been any positive tests in lambs. I urge sheep farmers not to just rush to blame trace elements for poor lamb performance, as worms are a real threat this autumn.”
  • Lesley Stubbings, SCOPS: “When we get a dry year, it is even more important that each farm does its own risk assessment and carries out monitoring and testing to avoid getting caught out, because there will be huge variation between regions and farms”.

More at www.scops.org.uk and www.cattleparasites.org.uk.

Notes to editors: –

  • This press release is issued by National Sheep Association (NSA) on behalf of SCOPS. For more information contact Katie James, NSA Communications Officer, on 01684 892661 or katie@nationalsheep.org.uk.
  • SCOPS is an industry led group that works in the interest of the UK sheep industry. It recognises that, left unchecked, anthelmintic resistance is one of the biggest challenges to the future health and profitability of the sector. Find out more at www.scops.org.uk.
  • COWS is a voluntary initiative aiming to provide the best available, evidence-based information to the beef and dairy cattle industries in relation to the sustainable control of both internal and external parasites. Find out more at www.cattleparasites.org.uk.

Oct 11

BAVP winter meeting 2018: UPDATE

Abstract submission for the BAVP winter meeting 2018 has now been extended to Friday 30th November. If you are interested in submitting an abstract or attending please see our event poster for more details on registration fees, abstract submissions etc.

This year’s BAVP winter meeting will be held on the 10th – 11th December at the University of Cambridge.

The main meeting themes will be Climate Change (10th December),  which will include a talk from Plenary speaker Dr Cyril Caminade from the University of Liverpool, and General Parasitology (11th December),

If you are interested in attending as either a delegate or as a presenter you can download a registration form by clicking here. Please complete this and return as instructed on the form.

Image courtesy of University of Cambridge’s Faculty of History


Oct 04

Job advert: Soay Sheep Project x2


Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/arje/ CC-BY 2.0

2 Positions available at the Moredun Research Institute, working on the Soay sheep project (http://soaysheep.biology.ed.ac.uk/) on a new NERC funded project, with a great collaborative team.

RA/Lab manager: https://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/BNA771/research-assistant-lab-manager (Deadline 17th October)

Postdoc: https://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/BNC020/post-doctoral-research-associate (Deadline 29th October)

Sep 06

Climate change increasing the prevalence of harmful parasite, warn scientists

A rise in a parasite called liver fluke, which can significantly impact livestock production in farms in the UK and across the world, could now be helped by a new predictive model of the disease aimed at farmers. The tool, developed by University of Bristol scientists, aims to help reduce prevalence of the disease.

Cattle or sheep grazing on pastures where the parasite is present can become infected with liver fluke, which develops in the liver of infected animals, leading to a disease called fascioliasis. Current estimates suggest liver fluke contributes to around £300 million annually in lost productivity across UK farms and $3 billion globally.

Until now, risk predictions have been based on rainfall estimates and temperature, without considering the life-cycle of the parasite and how it is controlled by levels of soil moisture.   This, combined with shifts in disease timing and distribution attributed to climate change, has made liver fluke control increasingly challenging.

A new tool for farmers has now been developed by the Bristol team to help them mitigate the risk to their livestock. The model, which works by explicitly linking liver fluke prevalence with key environmental drivers, especially soil moisture, will help farmers decide whether they avoid grazing livestock on certain pastures where liver fluke is more prevalent, or treat animals based on when risk of infection will be at its peak. Importantly, the model can be used to assess the impact of potential future climate conditions on infection levels and guide interventions to reduce future disease risk.

Ludovica Beltrame, one of the study’s researchers from Bristol’s School of Civil, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, said: “In recent decades, the prevalence of liver fluke has increased from 48 to 72 per cent in UK dairy herds. This new tool will help farmers in managing the risk associated with liver fluke and offers a more robust approach to modelling future climate change impacts.”

Professor Thorsten Wagener from Bristol’s Cabot Institute added: “Water-related diseases can be difficult to eradicate using medicine alone, as resistance to available drugs is increasing. We need predictive models of disease risk that quantify how strongly infection risk is controlled by our rapidly changing environment to develop alternative intervention strategies.”

The five-year study comprising engineering, biology and medical researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Queen’s UniversityLiverpool and Scotland Rural Collegewas funded by the EPSRC, the Royal Society, and Bristol’s Cabot and Elizabeth Blackwell Institutes.


A mechanistic hydro-epidemiological model of liver fluke risk’ by L Beltrame et al is published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Original press release issued: 29 August 2018: http://bristol.ac.uk/news/2018/august/liverfluke.html 

Sep 06

LIVER FLUKE 2018: A Sustainable Control Of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) and Control OF (cattle) Worms Sustainably (COWS) joint statement

Sheep and cattle farmers warned dry summer may not have killed off liver fluke
The Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) and Control of Cattle Parasites Sustainably (COWS) groups are urging sheep and cattle farmers to not be complacent about liver fluke this autumn. It would be wrong for producers, the groups say, to assume the dry summer has killed all the liver fluke parasite and the mud snails that are part of its complex life cycle.

Speaking on behalf of SCOPS, sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings says: 
“This summer has been the hottest and driest on record in many parts of the UK. This means that, overall, the burden of liver fluke on pasture will be much lower than last season – but it is dangerous to assume this applies to all farms or even in all areas on a farm.

“Early diagnostic reports from labs and abattoir feedback in some areas suggest we must be careful. In a dry year, the infective stages of liver fluke will be concentrated around permanently wet patches, such as drinking points where there is moisture for snails, which of course is where animals congregate too.”

Experts from SCOPS and COWS say, in a dry year, it is even more important that each farm does its own liver fluke risk assessment and carries out monitoring and testing to avoid getting caught out. There will be huge variation between regions and farms. Tools available include specific blood tests, copro (dung) antigen tests and faecal egg detection tests. Both the SCOPS and COWS websites have details on when it is best to use these tests, and vets can advise on how to use them most effectively.

A spokesperson for COWS says: 
“Taking action now and using these tools will avoid losses due to fluke in high risk situations. Remember, on many farms where animals would normally be routinely treated, testing could help to avoid unnecessary treatments of animals that do not harbour liver fluke. This saves money and time and helps us protect the few medicines we have available to combat this parasite.”

Watch out for regular updates from SCOPS and COWS as the autumn and winter progresses – and find more at 
www.scops.org.uk and www.cattleparasites.org.uk.
www.scops.org.uk                    www.cattleparasites.org.uk

Aug 14

Job advert: Research Fellow, Queen’s University Belfast

The following vacancy is currently being advertised at Queen’s University Belfast. For for more information please click here

Job title: Research Fellow

The Research Fellow will be an innovative, highly productive, ambitious and collaborative member of a new research group led by Professor Eric Morgan in the School of Biological Sciences. The position will involve working as part of a research programme that is investigating the epidemiology of parasite infections in animals under climate change.
The purpose of the project is primarily to adapt, develop further and validate existing epidemiological simulation models to consider the impact of targeted selective treatment (TST) of gastrointestinal nematodes in cattle, on both parasite population dynamics and herd performance. These models will be used to inform TST trials on selected farms in Northern Ireland, to provide proof of principle and underpin wider uptake. A parallel work programme will refine empirical understanding of climatic drivers of infective nematode larval availability and distribution, to feed into model structure and parameter estimation. Simulations using the model will assess the sustainability of TST approaches under climate and farm management change. Outputs will be high quality peer reviewed publications, strategic recommendations to the UK cattle farming industry and a toolkit for computer simulation of parasites on cattle farms.
The successful Research Fellow will lead this ambitious cutting edge research project and will be involved in supervision, planning, day-to-day lab management, collaborations (including with project partners at Newcastle University) and outreach. This is a 30-month post funded by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, ending on 31 April 2021.


Aug 10

BAVP winter meeting, Cambridge, 10 – 11th December 2018

We are pleased to announce this year’s BAVP winter meeting will be held on the 10th – 11th December at the University of Cambridge.

The main meeting themes will be Climate Change (10th December),  which will include a talk from Plenary speaker Dr Cyril Caminade from the University of Liverpool, and General Parasitology (11th December),

If you are interested in learning more please see our event poster for more information on registration fees, abstract submissions etc.

If you are interested in attending as either a delegate or as a presenter you can download a registration form by clicking here. Please complete this and return as instructed on the form.

Image courtesy of University of Cambridge’s Faculty of History


Apr 08

SCOPS press release: New research shows sheep farmers can save money at lambing time and safeguard the future of their flocks

20th March 2018

Brecknock Welsh Mountain HRose

Anthelmintic treatment of ewes around lambing time, often with long-acting products, has become common practice on UK sheep farms. However, new independent UK research carried out over three years by the Animal Plant and Health Agency (AHPA) and funded by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has found no advantage in blanket worming ewes at lambing.

Faecal egg counts from lambs reared on ewes that were wormed with either a short-acting or long-acting wormer were not lower than faecal egg counts taken from lambs reared on ewes not treated with a wormer. The study supports data generated by other researchers suggesting the practice of treating ewes at lambing to reduce contamination on pasture and minimise subsequent disease may not always result in lower levels of infection in lambs.

Jane Learmount, lead research on the project, says: “Over-use of anthelmintics is a major factor in the development of resistance,and treating adult sheep unnecessarily only adds to the problem. We had the opportunity to see if this widely adopted practice of worming ewes at lambing really was beneficial to the lambs by analysing our data from our long-term project involving 16 commercial farms. The bottom line is that we could not demonstrate any clear benefit in terms of worm infection levels in lambs as a result of worming ewes on the farms studied.”

This research provides further support for the Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) recommendation to use a targeted approach to the administration of wormers on sheep farms, including leaving the fittest ewes untreated around lambing.

Peter Baber, sheep farmer and SCOPS Steering Group Chairman, says: “With sheep farmers increasingly aware that worm control is no longer as simple as regularly using a wormer (anthelmintic), this is an important finding. If you haven’t had resistance to one or more groups detected on your farm, chances are you know somebody who has and who is struggling with the consequences. These days, maintaining control of worms is all about striking a balance that minimises the risk that the worms will become resistant on your farm.”

Lesley Stubbings of SCOPS says: “SCOPS has been working with a number of farms for several years and they are not seeing any downside to worming only a small proportion of their ewes. This research finding is a massive step forward. We have been advising farmers to leave 10-20% of their ewes untreated, but now with the support of the findings of this large project, we can confidently tell farmers that they only need to treat that proportion of the flock that is below ideal condition or immature shearlings or ewe lambs.”

One of the farmers involved in this work is Gareth Owen of Abbey Farm, Leicester. He says: “We have monitored ewe egg output in the run up to lambing for several years and have convinced ourselves that the majority of our ewes do not shed many eggs. Consequently, only our shearlings and the few leaner ewes are treated at lambing. I must be able to control worms in the long term and am not prepared to risk accelerating the development of resistance on the farm by administering indiscriminate ewe treatments simply because that’s what we always used to do. The fact it also saves us a lot of money is an extra bonus.”

The message from SCOPS is, before you fall into spending money on wormer for your ewes this year, stop and think about how you can save money and at the same time protect the future of your flock from anthelmintic resistance. Be selective, only treating those ewes that need it, and help preserve your wormers for the future.

*Learmount et al. 2018. An observational study of ewe treatments at lambing on early infection in lambs on UK sheep farms. Veterinary Parasitology. 253, 55-59.